Ningen no joken I (The Human Condition I) (No Greater Love)

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Average Rating: 4.4/5

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Movie Info

Originally titled Ningen No Joken, No Greater Love is the first of Japanese filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi's Human Condition trilogy. Drawing from his own experiences, Kobayashi weaves the tale of a Japanese pacifist, trying to get by as best he can during World War II. Tatsuya Nakadai plays the leading role of a mine supervisor, whose kindly treatment of POW laborers incurs the wrath of his superiors. As the war in the Pacific rages on, Japan begins suffering heavy losses and military humiliations, yet still Nakadai adheres to his principles. Ultimately overwhelmed by events, Nakadai is horribly mistreated by the powers-that-be, then ordered to don a uniform and fight for his country. Originally released at 200 minutes, No Greater Love was followed in 1961 by the first of two sequels, Road to Eternity (see entry 23819) ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Critic Reviews for Ningen no joken I (The Human Condition I) (No Greater Love)

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (4)

  • It's a richly rewarding visual and human experience in all its bleakness.

    Jul 18, 2008
  • In keeping with the grandeur of its title, The Human Condition is anything but modest in scope and ambition.

    Jul 18, 2008 | Rating: 4/5
  • Based on Jumpei Gomikawa's ambitious novel and seasoned with Kobayashi's own experiences, this overly melodramatic trilogy set in Japanese-occupied Manchuria depicts the dehumanizing brutality of war with on-the-nose pedantry, never subtext, and offers li

    Jul 16, 2008 | Full Review…
  • it is still powerful and uncompromising, but it is also strident, tortuous, and hateful

    Sep 26, 2009 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • It all sounds like a downer, and Human Condition is an indisputably solemn film. Yet it also possesses a restless vitality, with hard cuts juxtaposing abject brutality with pastoral tranquility and romantic longing.

    Sep 9, 2009 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi's landmark 1958-61 trilogy about a man's attempt to struggle with his humanity in an inhumane world is a rigorous but deeply rewarding viewing experience.

    Sep 19, 2008 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Ningen no joken I (The Human Condition I) (No Greater Love)

Astounding war drama, The Human Condition is a milestone in cinema, a film so ambitious in scope, yet so simple in the way that it tells a captivating story. This being the first part of the trilogy, The Human Condition I: No Greater Love begins to tell the story of Kaji, a Japanese man who tries to survive in Japan during the Second World War. Such a simple idea is presented before you, but the way the subject is tackled is sheer brilliance. The Human Condition is a masterpiece of cinema, and this first part starts off slow, but steadily unfolds to tell an unforgettable story. Once the story picks up, the film moves at a steady pace, and it doesn't feel like a 3 hour + film. The cast do a fine job in their roles and each brings something to the film that elevates it to a masterful quality. The direction by director Masaki Kobayashi is flawless, and the way he handles such a simple, yet poignant subject is simply brilliant. Films like this are a rare breed because they deal with the an important subject, but they manage to grab the viewers attention due to the fact that the characters are richly detailed and you experience the struggle of their ordeal with them. The Human Condition tackles its subject well, and this first part manages to build up something quite memorable, and l like I said, as the story progresses, the tone of the film becomes more dramatic an it does quite well due to its well paced storyline, of which the director is not afraid to take his time in order to tell an unforgettable film. The result is a stellar first part that upon once viewing the entire trilogy was a film going experience like no other. The Human Condition is and unforgettable piece of cinema, and it's also one of the defining classics of cinematic history.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

a 10 hour film made in six parts and released as three separate films from 1959-1961, the human condition is as ambitious as the title suggests, and it succeeds on every level. this is one of those rare times that the cliche term "sprawling epic" actually applies as this film takes it place alongside "all quiet on the western front" as the greatest anti-war films in cinematic history. you really see the span of the human condition as kaji, played masterfully by tatsuya nakadai goes from the corporate office, to managing a labor camp, to being a common soldier, to marching across nations, to being a POW in a russian camp at the end of the war. the film never gets dull. seen as somewhat anti-japanese at the time of its release, it is now seen as a massive apology letter from japan to the rest of us of the guilt many of them feel over their involvement with germany in WW2. the film excels in cinematography and locations, the acting was amazing from each of the many performers that show up at different stages in the film, and kobayashi's directing should be seen as one of the greatest directorial successes of all time. so much more could be said, but it just needs to be seen to be understood.

danny d
danny d

Super Reviewer

"The Human Condition" starts at the Gate of Hope and Peace in occupied Manchuria during World War II. Kaji(Tatsuya Nakadai) knows his being called up to the armed forces is likely to be a death sentence and does not want Machiko(Michiyo Aratama), who followed him there, to be left a widow. She does not care. She just wants to be with him. By contrast, his pal Kageyama(Keiji Sada) just regrets not having knocked anybody up before being called up. But Kaji gets a reprieve of sorts when a manager likes his report, despite the perceived Communist influences, and assigns him to be the labor supervisor in a remote mine, deferring his enlistment and allowing him to marry Michiko. "The Human Condition" is a powerful, bleak and epic(6 parts, 10 hours - perfect for a long train ride) view of war, that does give into melodrama on rare occasion. What is of central interest is the power wielded by those holding the gun(or in this case, a sword) that is not only used against those who are being occupied but also those seen as being weak in the armed forces of the time, while others seek to profit from such abject misery. At the same time, the movie does not in the least avoid depicting the subject of human slavery. Kaji is not totally naive.(The height of which comes late in the movie.) He is aware of the chances of survival but most of what he knows is from books which cannot prepare him for the inhumanity he will face. Kaji hopes to transfer some of this knowledge to the real world to make it a more humane place, even in war, but against such dangerous odds, all he can do is win small victories, as everybody is waiting for the inevitability of the end of the war.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

This film by Masaki Kobayashi is a masterpiece!! You'll get to see the worst and best of people during times of war in a Manchurian Prison Camp. Kaji, played by Nakadai, is trying to prove that if you treat prisoners well and take good care of them, they will work for you. The constant dilemma's he's faced with, and the painful paradox of a human approach when you're faced with people who are imprisoned against their will and have to work and live behind a wired fence is very tangible. He not only has to win the prisoners trust, he also has to prove himself to his superiors and 'colleagues', and the latter are committed to giving him a hard time. I can't wait to see the other two parts!

Saskia D.
Saskia D.

Super Reviewer

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